Man Facing Prison for Shooting Wife Deserves Everyone's Sympathy

Terminally ill newlywed Brittany Maynard took her own life to die with dignity on her terms, but not everyone has that option. However, Brittany's brave but controversial choice has opened up a dialogue about the options for people with painful or terminal illness. Brittany and her family were able to move from California to Oregon, which has a right to die law, so she could end her life peacefully with an overdose of medication. California, and many other states, do not have laws like this, and one of the consequences of that is someone like Alameda resident Jerry Canfield, 72, may now spend the rest of his life in prison. Because Jerry murdered his wife -- but he insists it was out of mercy.


Canfield and his wife, Joann, were married for 37 years. Everyone says they were madly in love for all of that time. A neighbor told ABC News 7:

You know, you've heard of being in love? Well, they were that.

Another neighbor concurred, saying:

On a daily basis they were continuously together. Wherever he went, she went.

But Joann had reportedly succumbed to the effects of Alzheimer's disease. Jerry told a neighbor that his wife was "seeing demons" and would run around the house trying to get away from them -- causing her to trip and fall. This left her with bruises, but psychologically, it must have been worse.

Jerry eventually placed her in a nursing home, and neighbors say he spent every waking moment with her there -- getting up at 7 a.m., driving to the home, and not returning until late at night. "Talk about love," says a neighbor.

But Jerry said that he and Joann had made a pact that he would end it for her if she couldn't bear her pain any longer. Apparently, that day came.

Jerry brought his wife home, placed a bouquet of roses by her side, and then reportedly shot her in the head.

Then he dressed up nicely, left the house, and drove himself to the police station. Neighbors are absolutely convinced he did this for no reason but to be merciful. Says one:

This might have been the last kind thing he could do for her. And I'm sure that's what it was. I just ... nobody could ever convince me otherwise.

But the police aren't moved, and Jerry was charged with murder.

Ugh, what a tragic scenario. And one many of us are likely to face as we get older. I have seen two of my relatives succumb to this terrible disease.

You just can't go around shooting people in the head. For every Jerry, who may have truly adored his wife and only did this out of love, there is someone who pretends to be a Jerry but kills out of selfishness and a desire not to be burdened anymore. All we have is Jerry's version of why he did what he did.

It's unclear why Joann was taken out of the nursing home -- there, she would have received the care she needed. But perhaps Jerry just couldn't stand seeing her like that anymore.

More from The Stir: Mom Kills 17-Month-Old Son With Down Syndrome Out of 'Mercy'

Still, it just does not seem right that Jerry, provided his version of events is accurate, should spend the rest of his life in prison. This country needs to get better right to die laws in place. This is a total tragedy, and no one should have to choose between helping a loved one end her misery and going to prison.

If you're a caregiver and feeling like you need help and don't know where to turn, please call the Family Caregiver Alliance at 1-800-445-8106.

Do you think he should be charged with murder?


Image via ABC News 7

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